tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC May 2, 2012 2:00am-3:00am EDT
good evening. i'm chris matthews. leading off to off tonight, the president in afghanistan. partisan critics may not like it but president obama is making sure that everyone is reminded that this is the one-year anniversary of the successful raid on osama bin laden. the president made a surprise visit to afghanistan this very day, to sign an agreement to wined down the war. early this evening mr. obama addressed troops at bagram airfield in a speech both emotional and moving. and half an hour at 7:30 eastern time the president will make a national televised address to our country. "hardball" will be on air live for the full hour and will bring you the president's speech and full analysis right up until 8:00 eastern. there is no way to separate the policy of the war from politics. who better to talk about that than our two guest right now. chief white house controversy and politico director for msnbc
news and joe scarborough host of morning joe on msnbc. i want to start with chuck. just 24 hours ago there was a partisan back and forth about whether or not the president was exploiting the one-year anniversary of the getting osama bin laden. now we see a change, it seems, to after more bipartisan support for troops and for this big decision we are making about afghanistan. >> well, you are seeing a change in phone, politically. you see a john mccain lindsay graham. mitt romney toned back the criticism he was talking about with the issue of whether the obama was politicizing this issue. but because of this agreement that is being signed, if you will, and what they have agreed to do, an agreement to have an agreement about what the u.s. military press sense going to be in afghanistan after 2014. that is what the president is announcing and what he's agreed to. there will be a military presence. not the same as it is now. not combat troops. not out front.
but there will be a presence in afghanistan until 2024 and there are a lot of members in the republican party wanted the president to agree to this and this needed to be done. why did they pick today? well, even the white house admits they picked today it was not just a coincidence because they believe that one, it is an important day to for those folks in afghanistan and to those folks in america and you use it as a way to -- to essentially inform people why we are in afghanistan. why we went there in the first place. is this bin laden and why we still have work to do. >> okay, here is part of what the president said today to the troops at bagram. it reminded me a bit, a bit of eisenhower. let's watch. >> i could not be prouder of you. i want you to understand, i know it's still tough. i know, the battle's not yet over.
some of your buddies are going to get injured. and some of your buddies may get killed. and there's going to be heart break and pain and difficulty ahead. but there's a light on the horizon. because of the sacrifices you've made. >> judge scarborough, your feelings about watching that scene the last hour from bagram airfield? >> well, you're right. very moving scene. and i say that despite the fact that unlike john mccain and lindhy graham and other republicans, i was against the tripling of the number of troops in afghanistan. i believe we need to get home sooner rather than later. i believe that we've been there too long already. that said, it was a very moving scene. and even though i disagree with the president's policy, i think
the commander-in-chief needs to go over to afghanistan on a day like today to mark the one-year anniversary of an extraordinary moment. a moment the united americans in a way that we hadn't seen since after september 11th, that was the killing of osama bin laden. is he politicizing this event? yes, he is. is that a big surprise to any of us? no, you have -- as we talked about before, chris,ou had kennedy's false missile gap. you had lbj's daisy ad. you had george w. bush in 2004 using national security. in 2012 barack obama is using a very successful operation a year ago. this has been going on for over 200 years. it is an great shock. but i think on the positive side, the troops needed to see their commander-in-chief today.
i think it is a very good thing they got to do that. >> let me go back it chuck. i think there a difference and you can agree that if you exploit you what are doing or lying, here he is explaining. there is no doubt he want to continue the role in afghanistan. he will take the heat for that, from all across the political spectrum because the -- i see him being quite authentic and saying, i'm not one of the cut and run people. i think we have a residual role and i'm willing to take the heat on it. >> he is using political capital he has on bin laden. and trying to sell -- trying to explain why the united states is going to be staying in afghanistan in one form or another for another, what is it now, 12 years. i mean, that is an amazing number when you think about it. a ten-year commit many here. now this is both on the economics front and on troops
and all of that is still to be negotiated. every years, there will be a lobbying effort to convince congress to fund aid programs to afghanistan. we can only imagine what some of those political fights might look like over the next decade, plus two years. that said, this isn't going to be the easiest thing for the president to be explaining tonight. this is not spiking the football. i think at first when people heard rumor the president was going to afghanistan, is he simply having an ewith the troops on the day to mark the anniversary? no, he is trying to sell the what is not the most popular policy. you know what, we will be in afghanistan longer than folks want to be. but let me say why we will be there. i don't want to repeat 1989 when the u.s. abandoned afghanistan after helping beat the soviets.
>> you know, i'm of mixed mind about this. i have as much war fatigue as you do as a commentator. but let me ask you this, you saw charlie wilson's war. i think they made a good point there. as chuck pointed out, we backed freedom fighters as we saw them. then all of a sudden we are out of the country. they broke bed. became the worst enemies of o you are countries. metamorphosing over there, called the afghans. and my question is how do we prevent that from happening again if we split? >> we don't. but chris, that is the reality in 2012. that's the reality in 2022. that the reality in 2042. we can't control the fate of afghanistan. we have been there for over a decade. i remember listing a thomas ricks on npr, interview about five, six years ago. and he explained, and i was shocked, he said, you know, by the time that the war winds down
in afghanistan, and iraq, well have kids that were five years old when september 11th occurred. 2001. we have now, with the president saying we are going to extend our stay there even longer, we have now ensured that children who were not even born on september 11th, 2001, will be occupying afghanistan going into the second decade. third decade. i think the united states is a terrible occupying power. i think -- and not only you and i have war fatigue, i think the overwhelming majority of americans have war fatigue. we are spending over $2 billion a week in afghanistan right now. and i've yet to hear any foreign policy expert explain how that is money well spent and how that is american blood well spent. again, chris, whether we live in 2012 or 2022, we are not going to change the realities that have been on the ground since alexander the great was sent
fleeing afghanistan. >> okay. i appreciate that. i think i'm with you sometimes. let's go to what jim, the very conservative senator from oklahoma had to say. because he is a bit off base because mccain and of course lindsay graham, norm lit most credible people on war and armed services issue, here is what the ranking republican on the normaled services committee said today. clearly this trip is campaign-related. we have seen recently that president obama visited college campus in the attempt to win back the support of that age group since he lost it the last three years. similarly this trip to afghanistan is an attempt to shore up his national security credentials because he spent the last three years gutting our military. if ever i've read a staff-written document, that is, chuck. i don't think any united states senator talks like that. i would say a junior staffer wrote that who is not very literary.
it is crapola. obviously presidents are expected to be political when they run for reelection. i don't even get the accusation buried in this. what is the accusation by the staffer who put this up in. >> there has been some arguing that the administration and defense department has been fighting too much on some budget cuts. but to go back to, you know, one of the reasons i that i majority of the main republican voices of the more hawkish wing of the republican party, when it comes to military affairs in general and afghanistan, i think one of the reasons you won't hear them criticize the president right now, and if you note and why the tone changed with the john mccain and lindsay graham, because they have been screaming from the rooftops about a year. why won't the president use the bully pull pet to quote, sell afghanistan if you will. this is a case where the president is taking the most famous day, if you will now, in
the car. closest thing this country will ever have to a ve day or vj day in this war, which is vobl day. the bin laden's death day and using that anniversary to talk about the future of our security relationships. >> and more hawkish. >> and to be hawkish. now look, that is why i think you will see more muted criticism from the more main stream voices. >> i have to get back it joe. joe, this -- joe, i just want to ask you this one way. one thing i want to you hit on your points here, if you ask someone to do something, get tougher, and he does, rally the troops as if he were a civilian eisenhower, trying to get them gunning hoe for a very difficult mission which will take years as he pointed out, with a lot of suffering and death and dismemberment, a horrible campaign in in many ways. in which we are shot by our own
allies, a very tough situation. then with to have someone like this guy from oklahoma, what does he want? is he just behaving like a troll here? someone who just bites the ankle of the person crossing the bridge? what's the point of being a politician if you have to make infantile comments about a president meeting with the troops? what's the point? >> well, i'm not sure. i will say that dwight eisenhower, a man who was i consider to be one of the great presidents of the 20th century, made famous that declaration, i shall go to korea. commander-in-chiefs have been using politics. to further policy. and you, i think you have underlined a great point as has chuck. the president of the united states has used this one-year anniversary to promote his afghanistan policy. to be blunt about it, as much
respect as i have for john mccain and as much as i like lindsay graham, i would feel a lot more comfortable if those two hawks, those two neoconservative republicans were condemning the president's policy because the fact they are out supporting him means one thing. that means, the neocons have won. well be in afghanistan until 2020. and again, three years ago, i was saying we didn't need to triple the number of troops. people said we would be out by 2012, 2014. i said 2014 means 2020. i suspect 2020 now may mean 2025. and it is very troubling. i think it is a big mistake. but chris, bottom line is, a lot of republicans aren't happy regardless of what the president does, just like democrats aren't happy regardless of what the republican commandeer chief does. the world keeps turning, as my grand mom used to say. >> i don't want it think about
what neocons happy because that means moving the united states military the middle east and be at war with any of the countries at any given moment. >> that's why they are happy. they freeze republicans from speaking out, the way i'm speaking out tonight. the way george will has been speaking out. there are republicans that say to me privately they agree with me, that we didn't need to triple the number of troops. but they followed john mccain who followed by lindsay graham who is followed by joe lieberman. make no mistake, with all due respect to these gentlemen, the neocons won tonight. >> okay. i got to give chuck the last thought here tonight. chuck, your thought. >> one thing interesting about this agreement is it's trying to get at some of the concerns joe has had, right? which is number one, the footprint is smaller, no permanent u.s. bases and an agreement with the afghan government that u.s. won't be
used to strike on other countries. a code word not to strike against iran. what will be allowed though is the special forces to remain there, court of think of it as old-fashioned biden plan to be used to say attack a compound somewhere in pakistan to get some al qaeda official. >> thank you. thank you for joining us to. when we return, the politics on this trip. a reminder, president obama will address the country, our country, from afghanistan. that is at 7:30 eastern. we will bring you that life when it happens. this is "hardball." >> because of the sacrifices now of a decade, and a new greatest generation, not only were we able to plot the taliban, not only were we able to drive al
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national editor. thank you for coming on. michael, this thing we just saw shows i think it is not predictably left/right any more. there is a lot of center opposition to this war. a lot of people on the old anti-vietnam left. you are suspicion of any foreign involvement like this. what do you make of the politician that, if not doubling down, continuing the policy that we have a military role in play in afghanistan. >> i think in one area i have with him is exiting the door as quickly as with can. i think the president would be reckless if he packed our bags in one day and brought us home. he is fulfilling a campaign pledge in getting us out as soon as practical. >> are you saying he is like nixon saying to south
vietnamese, we're leaving but will be right there whenever you need us. in fact, we are leaving? >> i believe we are leaving. there will be 20,000 or 30,000 fewer than today. and i think the wheel purpose is trying to bring closure to afghanistan, obviously with the political eye on bin laden. i'll tell you something, i think the president earned that right. i think the president is entirely justified for a subtle reminder of the role that his administration has played in turning loose the u.s. navy seals to take care of business. >> right. >> let me go to john. i haven't heard from you in that front. it seems to me out of today out of nowhere romney flipped back and stopped criticizing the president for correctly taking credit, if you will be for getting bin laden. having in the past opposed any kind of action which will cross border without the authority of
the pakistan government. what do you make of his flip on this thing, romney. >> i think, chris, he must have realized it wasn't a great idea for the republican to talk about bin laden from now until november. the president justly would like to talk about that you threw the whole election. but i think someone mentioned to roam knee or other republicans, hey, this only continues to remind people that obama got bin laden. and we didn't. and that's it. and you know, it also brings up the fact that the republicans had you know, used national security as you know, chris, as a club over democrats for at least 40 years, now. every election. relentlessly. winning some, winning many. losing a few. but generally a very effective weapon. the president hitting back the way he did with that ad, i think is putting an end to that and quite effectively.
>> michael, that's true. i think of growing up in the cold war, and not just. innon, nixon, but eisenhower and running general grant. they've always been good at it it. now when they catch obama doing their number, if you will, they tag him as off base. >> unless you're in the very few minority that i think today wishes the united states to go to war with iran and to do it alone, unless you are in that very narrow group, you look at the president and say, he's been to wimp on national defense and there's no way that gop candidate in this cycle is going to be able to outflank him as a conservative on national security issues. and that is a role reversal of where we have been for 50 years. joe, are you comfortable being
in a party with a hawkish -- well, i'm not saying you're in the party. i take that back. are you comfortable with two hawks run for president. >> i don't regard the president as an unmitigated hawk. he rightly criticized the war and wanted out of there. i supported the war in afghanistan originally. you know chris, when you go to war in a country like that, there is for some time afterwards an american presence or allied presence in a place like that. just like in europe for decades and decades just as there still is in korea. this is part of what happens. there's an argument for saying, hey, as michael said, we have to get out but we have to get out in an orderly way and without you know, giving advantage to the enemy we went in there to displace and attacked us. i don't have a big problem with that.
as long as it's clear we will move out of there because it's hard to see what the end point it s, if we stay. >> that's very wise. great to hear from you, joe. we don't have you on enough. michael, as always buddy, you do make sense. we are waiting for the president who will speak to our country, directly from kabul in afghanistan, right after the break. we will see how we as a country react to it. about the u.s./afghan relationship. going forward. catch these years from 2014 to 2024. that's a long way out into the future we are talking about tonight. first anniversary, by the way, on the raid to kill bin laden.
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welcome back to "hardball." president obama's address from afghanistan is coming up in a few minutes. you all have more time after the president speaks but right now, 30 seconds each. what is the president's big challenge tonight in selling our continued military involvement in afghanistan? susan page? >> i think it is a challenge. because he's making the case a number of troops will go down. but he will have to acknowledge that commitment to afghanistan will continue for another 12 years. that's a long period of time. i think the other big challenge is turning this back to domestic concerns which we believe he will do at the end of his speech. now is the time to renew america. >> mark halperin? >> based on what he said so far, i think he has pretty perfect pitch on this. he has a lot of political and policy goals.
think i they all come together by previewing what will happen down the road, clearing momentum is toward a lower military presence in afghanistan but also making it clear and protecting his right thank that will be a sustained presence and that the united states could react and ramp back up. major within all the way to 2024. a long horizon. >> chris, can his rhetoric match reality? what are the rules of engagement? can the u.s. forces remain after 2014 engage in anything productive or just supervise afghans and are the afghans ready to take control of their own secure snit kabul is the only place with the exemption of a couple far flown provinces where the u.s. and nato forces are a real fighting force. if they withdraw all the way to kabul, and there's only a residual force of americans, who is in charge, taliban or fictitious afghan police and army force. the rhetoric and reality will be
the big challenge for the president tonight. >> here we are. the president is there. he will speak at any moment. he is at bagram air base in afghanistan. he is about to address the american people right now. we will watch for a moment. we don't want it miss him as the president comes into the room here. we're watching the set already. look at this. look at the military equipment there. here we comes. the president of the united states. good evening. from bagram air base. this outpost is more than 7,000 miles from home. but for over a decade, it's been close to our hearts. because here in afghanistan, more than half a million of our sons and daughters have sacrificed to protect our country. today i signed an historic agreement between the united states and afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries. a future in which afghans are responsible for the security of
their nation and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states. a future in which war ends and new chapter begins. tonight, i would like to speak to you about this transition. but first, let us remember why we came here. it was here, in afghanistan, where osama bin laden established a safe haven for terrorist organization. it was here in afghanistan where al qaeda brought new recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. it was here from within these borders that al qaeda launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children. and so ten years ago, the united states and our allies went to war it make sure that al qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated.
in 2002, bin laden and his lieutenant escaped across the bored enand established safe haven in pakistan. america spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in iraq. al qaeda's extremist allies within the taliban waged a brutal insurgency. but over the last three years the tide has turned. we broke the taliban's momentum. we have built strong afghan security forces. we devastated al qaeda leadership taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. one year ago from a base here in afghanistan our troops launched the operation that killed osama bin laden. the goal that i set to defeat al qaeda and denied a chance to rebuild is now within our reach. still, there will be difficult days ahead. enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over. but tonight, i would like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in
afghanistan. first, we have begun a transition to afghan responsibility for security. already nearly half of the afghan people live in places where afghan security forces are moving in to the lead. this month, that nato summit in chicago, our coalition will set a goal or afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. international troops will continue to train, advise and assist the afghans and fight along side them when needed. but we will shift into a support role as afghans step forward. as we do, our troops will be coming home. last year we removed 10,000 u.s. troops from afghanistan. another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. after that, reductions will continue at a steady pace with more and more of our troops coming home. and as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014, the afghans
will be fully responsible for the security of their country. second, we are training afghan security forces to get the job done. those forces have surged and will peak at 352,000 this year. the afghans will sustain that level for three years. and then reduce the size of their military. and in chicago, we will endorse a proposal to support a strong and sustainable long-term afghan force. third, we are building an enduring partnership. the agreement we sign today sends a clear message to the afghan people. as you stand up, you will not stand alone. it establishes the bases for our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. it supports afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. and it includes afghan commitments to transparency and
accountability and protect the human right of all afghans. men and women, boys and girls. within this framework, we will work with the afghans to determine what support they need to accomplish two neyor security commissions beyond 2014. counterterrorism and continued training. but we will not build permanent bases in this country. nor will we be patrolling at cities and mountains. that will be the job of the afghan people. fourth, we're pursuing a negotiated peace. in coordination with the afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the taliban. we have played it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al qaeda, renounce violence and abide by afghan laws. many members of the taliban from foot soldiers to leaders have indicated an interest in reconciliation.
the path to peace is now set before them. those who refuse to walk it will face strong afghan security forces backed by the united states and our allies. fifth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and stability in south asia. in chicago, the international community will express support for this plan and for afghanistan's future. and i have made it clear, to its neighbor, pakistan, that it can and should be an equal partner this process in a way that respects pakistan sovereignty, interests and democratic institutions. in pursuit after durable peace, america has no designs beyond and end to al qaeda safe havens and respect for afghan sovereignty. as we move forward, some people will ask, why we need a firm time line. the answer's clear. our goal is not to build a
country in america's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the taliban, these objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, most importantly, many more american lives. our goal is to destroy al qaeda and we are on a path to do exactly that. afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build peace. others ask, why don't we leave immediately? that answer is also clear. we must give afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. otherwise our gains could be lost and al qaeda could establish itself once more. and as commander-in-chief, i refuse to let that happen. i recognize that many americans are tired of war. as president, nothing is more wrenching to signing a letter to the family of a fallen or lou looking into the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father.
i will not keep americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. but we must finish the job we started in afghanistan and end this war responsibly. my fellow americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. yet here in the predawn darkness of afghanistan we can see a light on the new day of the horizon. the iraq war is over. the number of troops in harm's way has been cut in half and more will soon be coming home. we have a clear path to fulfill our mission in afghanistan while delivering justice to al qaeda. this future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. in an age when so many
institutions have come. up short. these more keane is stood tall. they met their responsibilities to one another and to the flag they serve under. i just met with some of them. and told them that as commander-in-chief, i could not be prouder. and in their faces, we see what is best in ourselves, in our country. our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, marines, coast guardsmen and civilians in afghanistan have done their duty. now we must summon that same sense of common purpose. we must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve and the opportunities they have earned. and we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice. as we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home. it's time to renew america. an america where our children live free from fear and have the
skills to claim their dreams. a united america. of grit. and resilience. where sun light glistens off soaring new towers in downtown manhattan and we build our future as one people. as one nation. here in afghanistan, americans answer the call to defend their fellow citizens, and uphold human dignity. today we recall the following and those who suffered wounds, both seen and unseen. but through dark days we have drawn strength from their example and the ideals that have guided our nation and lit the world. i believe that all people are created equal. and deserve the freedom to determine their destiny. that is the light that guides us still. this time of war began in afghanistan, and this is where it will end. with faith in each other and our eyes fixed on the future.
let us finish the work at hand and forth, adjust and lasting peace. may god bless our troops and may god bless the united states of america. >> wow, we are back with msnbc's senior political analyst mark halperin, and susan page. my quick thought is i think i heard the annunciation about the declaration of biden plan which is to limit our role in afghanistan to counterterrorism. he said that we're going to make sure -- he said we have no designs, america does, beyond the end to al qaeda having safe havens and respect for afghan sovereignty. mark halperin, nothing about defending government against another government. one tribe against another tribe. the reason we there are in the first place, to keep al qaeda from being a threat against our country. >> i think it is begs a million questions.
the stability and confidence of the karzai government. the president today sitting with karzai signing this agreement. a lot will depend on top leadership. our ability to build military and civic institutions. that's how the government will continue to help with and monitor. but without that, it's all meaningless. because there is a such a long time line, what the president says today doesn't matter down the road. this plays good politics. this gets him the posture he has now, horizon for departing but a long time line he can't be accused by mccain and others of cutting and running. them gets him through the election but begs a lot of substantive questions on the ground. >> do you accept the fact there's no way to prevent reemergence of al qaeda in that country as a threat to us without the success of the karzai government in effect. >> i couldn't agree more with what mark just said.
what we have here is a metaphor, darkness of war, lightness of end of war. but what happens in the lightness. what are the rules of engagement? what is the cost? commitment of congress to continue to fund a u.s. presence in what is going to be the belief and actual, not rhetorical chris, but actual ability of afghan police forces and army forces to defend their own country? not just in kabul, but throughout the entire vast country, which is now largely dominated. either by warlord or taliban insurgents. the other thing, kabul is now a hybrid. it is not seoul. this is not dwight eisenhower saying we will remain in seoul, defend south korea and continue to be there against bull work against communism and bull work for the people of south korea. we don't know how or in what form of poll things, economic or social development, let alone military development. as mark said, there is a lot of
great rhetoric and lightness after the darkness of war is a wonderfully pleasing sentiment an election year. but this will be a long and persistent fight in america in afghanistan. how is it won? how is it lost? those details yet to emerge. >> i guess i agree. especially with regards to the sun light glistening off of the soaring new towers in downtown manhattan. that reminded me of churchill talking about the sun light coming off the helmet of the victorious army. how can we be in a new support role, the role of the president, of the afghan security forces, how can we be a successful back up and another phrase he used to a government and army we may not be able to rely on? >> and what happens if it doesn't work? i guess that's the big question. six years from now, still in the
time line he outlined, no effective afghan government. are we going to build back up to try to bring stability? i don't know if a president would have the option of doing that. i think we know from polling from americans felt if t was the right thing to do to go in war in afghanistan after 9/11 but we have been there too long, cost too much and it is no longer worth it is costing us in lives and treasure. a lot of unanswered questions. and politically speaking, what a balance he struck in the speech in defending the time line and telling americans that this long war, america's longest war is now on its way it being over. >> there's the question. chuck todd is joining us. chuck, i'm hearing here something i heard earlier tonight. it may have been you from. that president is morphing into a counterterrorism position here that we are really only going to be there, as he point it, we don't have any designs, our country beyond the end to al qaeda safe havens.
we are not there no nation build. >> that's the specific military understanding that took place in this negotiation. is that the u.s. troop presence would be counterterrorism. more about the biden plan. to surge it all and biden was an advocate to say, don't escalate, down grid and make the footprint smaller. there is an big footprint. however, that doesn't mean for years there won't be soldiers in harm's way. i thought the president was very blunt about that to the troops. strikingly so. i heard what susan so about this line that he walked. there are a ton of caveats in the speech and agreement that indicate, yes, the goal is we are on our way it ending this war but a lot of things have to happen for this war it finally come to a conclusion. right? you got to get sort of rank and file members of the taliban to start the reconciliation process.
you got to hope afghan troops are standing up as well stand down. you got to hope that other country is committed. there are a lot of steps to go and i think the president put the best face he could i think on what is a tough sell to the american people. which is, you know what, this isn't going to end as quickly as with you like it to end. one year ago tonight you might have thought this process was going to speed up. and while you will see some numbers come home, and it will feel good for a while, the presence there is going to be a -- is going to be there a long time. maybe for another and this is what is stunning, think about it. for another three presidential terms. >> is wow. we'll be right back with chuck todd, major garrett and susan page. and live coverage from president obama's speech in afghanistan. back after this. >> this time of war began in afghanistan and this is where it
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mark halprin, major garrett. chuck, the president made a enough of references to chicago. that's the meeting of nato coming up on the 20th and 21st of this month. it seems like he's creating another one of the events. maybe it's politics as well keeping the ball in his court. he is the president of the united states, the real center of action. >> well, let me tell you what nato is supposed to be about. it's going to see the official announcement of how this withdrawal of combat troops is going to work. number two, the point of signing this agreement before nato on afghan soil is to create space and create an opening for other countries to create the same agreements in their own form whether it's canada, whether it's a great britain but to get other countries to say the united states put, we put skin in the game.
now it's your turn. that's essentially karzai's goal at this nato conference and the united states. similar agreements. >> mark, this is going to keep the focus on international events perhaps away from the economy. again, the president controlling the topic. >> it's triple a power politics. the incumbent president sets agenda and when it gets talked about. the romney campaign, i'm trying to think what can they criticize this for. he's says he's winding it down but he protects the length. again, it's right out of karl rove's play book. it's something a challenger face a tough time with especially with mitt romney with no military service in his background and no obvious strength. with the military on board and
the right length protected, it does check mate the issue and it's one where the president could have been vulnerable going into a general election on afghanistan. >> let me go to major garrett. it's big picture, it's global. it does make the principles at the summit the most important people in the world. >> that's right. remember this, this nato summit now that the americans through the voice of president obama said the war is ending. the darkness is about to end and the lightness will begin. france, who is going through a presidential election will be more inclined to get out sooner than later. canada has already determined its exit date. they already defined when they will leave. the afghanistan nato engagement is ending and the united states signaled that tonight.
i take exactly what chuck said. this is closer to the biden plan. i'm not an expert, but i've read enough. counter insurgency is connective. it's active. it chases bad guys. we don't know the details of this agreement. will there be night raids? probably not because the half afghans don't like that. is it going to be a real counter insurgency in name only? these are the details that i know most americans are not going to call through tonight, but they're going to be important to the success or failure in our long term engagement. >> to go after al qaeda and its remnants and any attempt to reestablish itself. he said i refuse to let that
happen. it couldn't be stronger. >> right. that's the rhetoric. how does that match the negotiated agreement with the karzai government. he also said we will negotiate with the taliban. are we negotiating from a position of strength? or will we negotiate from a position of weakness? i don't know. i don't think we know yet as a country. there are plenty of republicans and democrats who want to see the actual language and all of its implications. we'll be able to make better conclusions and more solid conclusions about what this long term agreement means. >> susan, toughest question of the night. what's the headline out of the the president's speech tonight? >> i think he get a great headline. it's the anniversary of the killing of bin laden. he's speaking to troops in harms way.
i would say this is not the issue on which the election is going to be fought. he's helped himself on an issue that could have been a vulnerability. the idea that a nato summit in chicago will take over the headlines at the end of this month, i don't think it's right. i think it gets turned back to the economy and issues close to home. >> back to chuck on that point. does the president have a sustained calendar of events like this where he can command the microphone of the country? >> well, he's got certainly some more vents. remember we'll quickly have a conversation about the economy on friday at 8:30 in the morning when the jobs report comes in, the new unemployment number and we'll be talking about the conversation. i think the headline for tonight is tough because president obama on one hand outlined how the war in afghanistan could come to an end, but our stay there has been
extended. there's no simple headline with tonight. that's a political problem. >> walking a balance which can be tricky. thank you so much. obviously tonight's amazing news development kept me from getting to brown university. i look forward to finding a new date for my visit. this is "hardball" for now. "the ed show" starts right now. good evening, americans. welcome to "the ed show" tonight from new york. moments ago president obama addressed the nation on his surprise visit to afghanistan. the commander in chief talked about the death of osama bin laden and america's path forward. we'll tell you what it all means. this is "the ed show." let's get to work. >> i know the battle is not yet over,